They said to avoid doing earthworks during winter, but we weren’t listening. Anyway, winter it seems was just toughening us up for spring.
Keen to make up a bit of lost ground I talked our plumber, Paul Carrington, into coming round on Saturday to get the downstairs drains laid so the builders would be all clear to finish slab preparations in the coming week. Paul arrived just as the lashing northerly started chucking handfuls of hard rain at us. At about the same time Jonathan rode up the hill ready to dig trenches. Quorum achieved we headed out into it.
There are not too many benefits to inclement weather on a building site, but it did seem to make us all work as quickly as possible, the sewer and stormwater drains getting laid out in purposeful haste. This gave me a small twinge of anxiety. Once the slab is poured it will be pretty much impossible to shift anything. Have I got all the measurements right? Will the fittings connect up but also sit snuggly against the walls? What if the toilet has accidentally been plumbed into the hallway? Too wet and cold to worry about such details, on we pressed.
Paul assures James that no, despite his excellent advice, he’ll continue doing things the way he knows how. Methodically, correctly and as wetly as possible. Meanwhile Jonathan pauses from chiseling rock for a moment and in doing so risks immediate hypothermia.
While Paul was busy with his plastic elbows and stinky glue I couldn’t help but notice that the poor cabbage tree perched on top of our neighbours’ (Rich and Rona’s) bank was getting worked loose by the wind. Jonathan had earlier tied it off to their deck but it was plain that this wasn’t going to keep it sufficiently stable. The partially exposed tap root was starting to send large chunks of bank down into the footings.
Rona was surprisingly calm when I knocked on her door with a chainsaw in one hand asking if she’d mind me cutting down one of their prized cabbage trees. Not that I should be surprised. Rich and Rona have been incredibly agreeable throughout the process. “Mind if we build a ruddy great house right in front of yours?” “No, not at all.” “Any objection to us digging out a three metre bank up against your foundations?” “Please: go right ahead.” They’re from the UK. Either they’re just cripplingly polite or (and it seems to be this) they’re just the most relaxed and friendly neighbours you could hope for. So I chopped the cabbage tree down.
Anatomy of a house: the main arteries (skeleton in the background)
Tam had assured me that if we could get the plumbing in and the council plumbing inspection done by Monday morning we’d be looking good for a pour on the following Wednesday. He’d even gone so far as to book the council building inspector (apparently he just looks at the plastic under the slab) and engineer for Tuesday afternoon and the concrete guys for Wednesday.
Feeling a bit nervous about the bank (by now Rich had been down to see if it was still safe for them to go out on their deck), not to mention cold and wet, as soon as Paul was done I headed inside to check the weather forecast from the weekend through to Wednesday. The MetVUW site showed me what I needed to know:
By Tuesday a monster tropical cyclone would be making a move on the North Island. Would it move off safely to the west, leaving us with a clear day for pouring on Wednesday?
No. I thought not. That is one wet Wednesday coming up. Keen to help things along as much as possible, on Sunday Tanea came out and we hurled ourselves at the various menial tasks that had been saved for us. These mostly involved rocks, mud, wheelbarrows and shovels. By day’s end our backs were twanging like guitar strings, but the site was looking nice and ready for a Monday onslaught.
I rang Tam to sound out the possibility of bringing everything forward a day to get the concrete poured by Tuesday. After all, the plumbing was sorted, the keys dug, the sand and mud shifted….
Fortunately you can’t hear a man rolling his eyes over the phone. Perhaps it was just to get me off the phone, but Tam promised to give it a crack, showing up on Monday morning with three guys.
Despite a rather less than agreeable visit from the plumbing inspector the guys managed to get much of the preparation done: drains covered over, sand and plastic down, steel tied and even much of the polystyrene underfloor insulation in place.
Even Ben the architect showed up to see how things were progressing. This was good because while I was talking him through the excitement of the plumbing we realised that we’d forgotten to put in a gully trap to receive the outflow from the kitchen above.
Tam points out where, had we been paying attention, we would have put the gully trap.
James insists that despite being no good at plumbing he has other “very useful” superpowers such as being able to hold the setting sun between thumb and forefinger.
No matter: Paul’s coming back in tomorrow morning to set a sump in the end of what will be a path in front of the basement.
While he’s about it he can fit the missing gully trap in amongst all the builders who will be (literally) crawling all over the site, frantically trying to get all preparations finished in time for the inspectors who will arrive just about simultaneously with the concrete trucks at 10am. One assumes that if we fail our inspection we’ll just be able to send the trucks back and get a refund…?
Sadly I’ll miss all of this as Tuesday’s a busy teaching day. Then again that may be a good thing; there’s such a thing as too much excitement.